This is the most comprehensive guide on the last will and testament.
Here I will take you through;
- the meaning of last will and testament
- forms/types of Last Will and Testament
- characteristics of the Last Will and Testament
- how to write a valid Last Will and Testament
- best last will and testament template (free pdf & docx download )
- what to do after writing a Last Will and Testament
- why do you need a Last Will and Testament
- Last Will and Testament writing checklist
- can you write your own will?
Let’s get started
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what is a Last Will and Testament?
The last Will and Testament is a legal document in which a person (testator) voluntarily declares how he desires his properties to be handled and finally distributed, once he dies. A testator appoints his hires and a person (executor) who will execute his desires through a Will.
Forms/types of a Last Will and Testament
Generally, there are two forms of Will; i.e Oral Will and Written Will. However, a written will appears to be appropriate because it is simple to prove its existence.
Forms and contents of the Will are always affected by statutory laws (Statutory Will), religions (Islamic wills), and customs (customary Wills) of a certain locality.
Therefore before writing your Will, you must put into consideration relevant statutes, your religion and custom apply in your life. One may wish to prepare a statutory will, an Islamic will, or a customary will.
Characteristic of a Last Will and Testament
- It operates only as a declaration of intention.
- It is revocable i.e you can cancel your Will at any time before death.
- It takes effect after the death of the testator.
- Will is ambulatory in Nature. This means it is capable of dealing with the property acquired after the date when it was made and provided, and that is, means that the property is owned by the testator until his death.
Requirements / Validity of the Last Will and Testament
Statutory, Islamic, or customary will, may only be valid and executed when it meets some requirements.
The following are the important requirements regardless of the nature of the will.
- The testator must be of full age (not a child/minor).
- The testator must be of sound mind at the time he makes a Will.
- It must be written unless it is an Oral Will.
- It must be free from ambiguity.
- It must be voluntarily made. A will, will not be accepted if made under force, fraud, mistake, or other influences.
- It must be witnessed; in case of statutory Will at least two witnesses.
- It must be signed by the maker in the presence of the witness who will also sign.
NB: if the Will does meet those conditions will be considered a defective and invalid will.
How to write a Last Will and Testament
The following is how to write a valid last will and testament perfectly;
Use Proper Terminology
Your will must be shown that it was voluntarily made by you. You must use proper terminology to express your wishes.
For example, use REVOKE to revoke all previous testamentary dispositions if that is your intention; APPOINT which deals with the appointment of executors and trustees; I BEQUEATH which sets out any gifts of specific articles which you wish to make, and GIVE, DEVISE BEQUEATH AND APPOINT which deals with any remaining property you may have to dispose of
Present your will properly
Your Will should be laid out in paragraphs numbered in sequence after the first paragraph which confirms the nature of the document (will or codicil) and states your name, address, and occupation or, if you are a woman without an occupation, your status (married woman, widow, etc.).
The first words of each paragraph should be in block capitals and underlined. All names should be set out in full, in capitals, and underlined.
Include all of your properties
For better estate planning, here you must write a list of anything of value. It may include personal assets including houses, land, shares, bonds, vehicles, jewels, all kinds of bank accounts, and antiques.
Appraise the value of all your assets, so you have an idea of your net worth. This is important in a country that has an inheritance tax or estate duty/estate tax.
An executor is a person to whom the power of implementing your desires is vested.
You may choose one or more people. Also, you must consider stating the alternate executor in case the one you choose is unable or unwilling to serve that position.
You may state the amount which will be paid to the executor for what he will do. Usually, it is wise to have two executors who you can trust, are honest, and are capable of executing your Will consider obtaining their concerns before finalizing your will.
Further, you may appoint the guardian of your children if you have a child or children below the age of 18.
Patrick Hill, Head of Legal, Trust, and hill shared a great guide on how to appoint an executor, you may read it here
In your Will, you must include your entire beneficiary. These are people who would benefit from your assets. Usually, they are family, relatives, and/or friends, but it may include charity organizations and others.
You must specifically decide on the share and asset allocation of every beneficiary. To prevent quarrels you may include reasons for your decisions or allocations
You may read this guide from meetfabric.com to learn more about how to select your beneficiary.
Include Funeral arrangements
When necessary you may include a clause on where and how you should be buried.
NB: to make sure your Will complies with all requirements, where necessary consider hiring a lawyer to help you draft it.
You may learn how to find a good lawyer here
What you should do after writing a Will and Testament?
After writing your will you should Decide Where to Keep Your Will. It is worth noting that your Will can only be executed once found. Make sure you keep your will at an easily accessible place/location but your executor or your loved ones.
You can consider keeping your will at your attorney Firm, Bank safe locker, or home safe locker or register it at a relevant authority.
Advantages of writing a last Will and testament
The following are the advantages of writing a last will and testament before you die;
To Distribute Your Properties (Both Current And Future) As You Wish
With a Will, you can direct where and how your properties will be distributed after your death.
For Example, you may wish to distribute some of your properties to charity organizations. If you died intestate (without a Will) your properties would be distributed against your wishes.
To Voluntarily Choose a Good Executor
With a Will, you can choose the person to administer your estate and distribute it according to your instructions but if you die without a Will that person will be chosen on your behalf.
To Choose A Guardian of Your Children
Through a will, you can appoint who will take care of your children in case you and their other Parents both passed away.
With Will, you live rich, and you die poor
It Will allows you to distribute all your property while you’re living although that distribution will take effect once you die. Proper allocation of your properties minimizes the chances of conflicts once you are gone.
Can I write my own will and have it notarized?
Yes, You don’t need a lawyer to draft a simple will; you can do it yourself. It must be notarized and comply with all legal requirements in your state.
In your simple will, you would simply state who gets what, and name a guardian for any minor children if applicable.
However, I want to emphasize that even if you can draft your own Will, you should take great care and be deliberate.
Although you may be able to write a Will, this does not guarantee that it will stand up in court. In other words, you should satisfy yourself with the legitimacy and legality of your will.
Through the guide I provided here, I’m sure now you are able to differentiate between valid will and invalid will.
In addition to that, the following CHECKLIST and TEMPLATE will help you draft a valid will.
Checklist for writing a will and last testament
- Full Name
- Age- to determine if he has capacity
- Whether of sound mind
- Religion- may determine what proportion of the property may be disposed of by will
- Marital status
- If married, type of marriage i.e customary/civil/religious/polygamous
- If you have any children
Details about Your properties
- Any property owned solely by your e.g houses, land, bank accounts, shares, cars, any other property
- Property owned jointly with another/marital property
- Details of any insurance policies taken out and their beneficiaries
- Any businesses owned
- Any debts, liabilities, encumbrances on owned properties
Details of intended beneficiaries
- Spouse: full name
- Children: full names and ages
- Others: names and addresses
Details of any specific gifts
- Whether you want to give any special item to a beneficiary
- Whether you want to make any gifts to charities/societies
- Who is to receive the rest of the property i.e residual legatee
Details of executor(s)/Trustee(s)
- Family dynamics so that can make the appropriate choice as to executor(s)
- Names and addresses of executor(s)
- Alternative executor
- Find out if proposed executors will be willing to act as executors
Details of Guardian to take of Children
- names and addresses
Any wishes for funeral arrangements
- A place to be buried
- Who to attend
- What must be done before buried
- What must be done after buried
Details of witnesses
- full names
- age- to determine the capacity
- Your relationship with the witnesses – may determine the capacity of the witness depending on the law applicable
Where to keep the will
- attorney’s office
- Bank locker
Last will and testament template
LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT
THIS IS THE LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT of me, [YOUR NAME] of [YOUR ADDRESS]
For the purpose of making this disposition of my entire estate, real and personal, which I wish to have taken effect at my death, do make, publish and declare this to be my last Will and Testament, and do hereby revoke all former Wills and Testamentary dispositions heretofore at any time made by me.
I HEREBY APPOINT [NAME OF THE EXCEUTOR] of [HIS/HER ADRESS] to be the sole executor of this my WILL.
I HEREBY DEVICE my interest in that piece or parcel of land situated in the [LOCATION] containing [size of plot] square feet known as Plot No…….Area,………and registered under a certificate of Title No….. to my wife[name of wife] and my son [name of sone] jointly as joint tenants in undivided equal shares;
I HEREBY DEVICE my interest in that piece or parcel of land situate in [LOCATION] District containing approximately [size of farm] acres known as Farm Nos……and…… Plan No…….and registered under Certificate of Title No……. to my wife[name of wife] and my son [name of sone] jointly as joint tenants in undivided equal shares;
I HEREBY DEVICE my interest in my house at[location of a house] known as Plot No to my Daughter [name of the daughter] absolutely;
I HEREBY BEQUEATH my interest in any motor vehicle that may be belonging to me at the time of my death to my son [name of the son]
I HEREBY BEQUEATH my 50,000 shares in ABX co. ltd to my children[name of the 1st child] and [name of the 2nd child] jointly in undivided equal shares;
I HEREBY BEQUEATH my interest in the following bank accounts:-
AKA Bank of Commerce, Home Branch
(i) Current Account No. 111111111111
(ii) Savings Account No. 111111111111
Zebra Commercial Bank, Away Branch
(i) Current Account No. 2222222222
(ii) Savings Account No. 22222222222
Join Bank of Commerce, Near Branch
(i) Current Account No. 3333333
(ii) Savings Account No. 333333333
(iii) Current Account 33333333333
KBK Commercial Bank, Far Branch
(i) Savings Account No. 4444444444
ADC LLC 29% “B” Stock to my wife -[name of wife] and my children [name of children] jointly in undivided equal shares after deducting the money necessary for meeting the costs mentioned in Clause 10 below.
I DIRECT that:
Any property not mentioned in this my WILL which will be belonging to me at the time of my death shall be distributed by my said Executor in his absolute discretion;
Any furniture and equipment which is in any of the houses mentioned hereinabove shall be part of the house and any furniture, equipment, and machinery on the farm shall be part of the farm.
I FURTHER DIRECT that if I said Executor, [NAME OF THE 1ST EXECUTOR] shall predecease me, [NAME OF THE ALTERNATIVEEXECUTOR] of [ADRESS OF ALTERNATIVE EXECUTOR] shall be an executor and do administration of my estate as [NAME OF THE 1ST EXECUTOR]would have done if he had survived me.
I AUTHORISE my Executor to pay all debts and funeral expenses in connection with obtaining the PROBATE of this my WILL.
This document shall be governed by the laws of the State of [STATE].
I, the undersigned [NAME], do hereby declare that I sign and execute this instrument as my last Will, that I sign it willingly in the presence of each of the undersigned witnesses, and that I execute it as my free and voluntary act for the purposes herein expressed, on this [DAY] day of [MONTH], 20[YEAR].
Testator Signature Testator (Printed Name)
The foregoing instrument, was on this [X] day of [MONTH], 20[X], subscribed on each page and at the end thereof by [NAME], the above-named Testator, and by (him/her) signed, sealed, published and declared to be (his/her) LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT, in the presence of us and each of us, who thereupon, at (his/her) request, in (his/her) presence, and in the presence of each other, have hereunto subscribed our names as attesting witnesses thereto.
Witness Signature Address
Witness Signature Address